Of Love and Lasagna

Since my boyfriend had not seen it, and he’s a self-professed Isabella Rosellini lover, I determined that I must rent “Big Night” for a date night. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s torture to watch it on an empty stomach; if you haven’t, plan on making some Italian food with your sweetie and curling up for a charming story with a lot of heart.

For me, lasagna is one of the loveliest of foods . . . it’s a pleasure to make, from the rich tomato sauce to the cheese mixture and the layering that builds up the anticipation of all that saucy, cheesy, pasta-ey goodness.

The original recipe included 1 1/2 pounds of sweet Italian turkey sausage, which I replaced with 10 ounces of sliced crimini mushrooms and 12 ounces of fresh broccoli florets with stems removed.

Ina Garten’s Lasagna (adapted)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, stemmed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 t. (+ more to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the mushrooms and broccoli and cook over medium-low heat for about 8 until broccoli is bright green.

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Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, the basil, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

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Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

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Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

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Umm. Sorry. We ate it before I remembered to take a picture of it baked. Yep, it’s seriously that yummy. :)

Lasagna recipes are endlessly varied. See cookrookery’s own Chris Baldwin’s mom’s lasagna, too!

7 comments to Of Love and Lasagna

  • Muzhik

    Yummy is right! I made the mistake of reading this just before dinner on a night where there’s nothing ready to jump out of the fridge into my mouth. Now I’m hungrier than ever. (grumble, grumble…)

  • war pig

    My favorite food movie, for sheer sensuality, is the Albert Finney version of “Tom Jones”. The supper scene has been called the sexiest, sultriest and most sensual food scene in the movies (outside of porn, probably).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tezjznL9NzM

    Albert Finney and Joyce Redman

  • Thanks for the clip, war pig. Though I have to say I found it more humorous than arousing. :)

  • ENVY! And such a sweet and romantic post. Makes me want to watch “Big Night,” (I have it, just haven’t gotten to it. :)

    Growing up vegetarian, we had lasagna every year for Thanksgiving, and I love it. Have you ever tried cottage cheese rather than ricotta? My favorite variation.

  • war pig

    I’ve had lasagna with cottage cheese vs ricotta. I always prefer the ricotta. They made school lasagna with cottage cheese so it sort of ruined it for me as school food was, well, school food. Soybean burgers and leftover veggies ground up into the next days sloppy joes.

    “Schloppy Joe, Schloppy, Schloppy Joe!”

  • Chris, I never knew ricotta cheese until I left home . . . my Mom only ever made lasagna with cottage cheese. I think I prefer the smoothness of ricotta, though perhaps I should make some nostalgia-lasagna with the leftover noodles.

  • war pig

    You can simulate ricotta if you place your cottage cheese in a strainer lined with a coffee filter and let it sit in the fridge over a bowl overnight. I haven’t done this for some time as I can get ricotta locally, so I’m not sure how much whey they leave in cottage cheese anymore. The whey runs out and stir the remaining curds together for a creamier cottage cheese. Or, if you have digestive problems with cottage cheese, do the same to plain, white yogurt for a sort of cream cheese.